The mere mention of Amsterdam conjures up images of a hedonistic city, where anything goes and that café culture. But beneath the bold exterior there’s a wealth of family-friendly activities and interesting culture waiting to be explored.
Visit the newly reopened Rijksmuseum
Quite possibly the best art museum in the Netherlands is reopening its doors following an extensive ten years of renovations and improvements. The world class museum which is situated on the Museumplein reopened on 13 April 2013. The Rijksmuseum, aka State Museum, is dedicated to fine arts, crafts and history with an impressive collection of works from Dutch artists, particularly from the ‘Golden Age’ (17thcentury). The museum was first established in 1800 and featured collections including those from Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer. In all there are thought to be around 200 masterpieces on display. This is one of the top things to do in Amsterdam - see for yourself why the city previously hosted the European Capital of Culture.
Explore the 400 year old Canal Ring
The 17th century Canal Ring is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and just celebrated its 400th birthday. The historic and beautiful water network is as integral to Amsterdam’s image, as tulips and windmills! Going by the Dutch name, Grachtengordel, the Dutch Ring was constructed during the Golden Age from reclaimed land. In total there are 165 separate canals and what actually began as a practical step to allow the city to grow, has given the city its heart, with traditional gabled canal-side buildings and notable monuments. Join in the year of special events, tours and excursions to celebrate the canal’s cultural heritage. Whether you choose to cycle along the canal banks (this is after all the safest cycling city in the world!) or take a boat trip – don’t miss the experience!
Take a moment at Anne Frank’s House
More than a million visitors each year step into the Anne Frank Huis in the western canal region. Her sombre bedroom has been reconstructed and the famous diary which details her life from 12 June 1942 until 1 August 1944 sits within a glass case. A visit is both powerful and insightful and the rear of the house, aka the secret annexe is where the Frank family lived in silence from 6 July 1942. On 4 August 1944 the Jewish family were anonymously reported and removed. Anne’s image and diary remains an important reminder of World War II.
Admire Vincent Van Gogh’s Masterpieces
Get to know the works from Amsterdam’s most famous artist; Vincent Van Gogh. The museum originally opened in 1973 and has also recently undergone significant renovation and reopened on 2 May 2013. Last year celebrated 40 years of the post-Impressionist painter’s works including 200 paintings and 600 drawings. There are also works on display from other artists such as Monet, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec. Although he died aged just 37 in 1890, Van Gogh produced some remarkable works including Sunflowers, Café Terrace at Night, Starry Night, The Potato Eater and Irises. Its reputed that Van Gogh only ever sold one painting in his lifetime – an astounding fact when you take into consideration that his painting ‘Portrait of Dr. Gachet’ is the most expensive painting ever sold at auction! In 1990 Portrait of Dr. Gachet sold for 82.5 million USD (current day equivalent of 147 million USD) at Christies in New York!
Celebrate music in Amsterdam at the Concertgebouw
The Concertgebouw is widely considered to be amongst the very best concert halls in the world and last year marked its 125th anniversary. Built in 1883 the impressive structure is home to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and each Wednesday at 12.30pm the concert hall holds a free performance for 30 minutes. This year has a packed schedule of concerts and musical performances.
Participate in the King’s Day party
Last years Queen’s Day was a lively and colourful national holiday, in honour of the birthday of Queen Beatrix. Also known as Koninginnedag, Queen’s Day saw the Dutch dressed head to toe in orange, partying through the night and eating orange food. Last year was all the more memorable as Queen Beatrix abdicated on her birthday. For 2014, the date is renamed King's Day in honour of the Netherlands new King, Willem-Alexander, who was inaugurated on 30 April.
Discover Amsterdam’s ‘Brown Cafes’
The Amsterdam café scene is as much a part of local culture as the traditional pubs are to Londoners. Brown Cafes are dotted throughout the city and remain an important hang out spot. Named after the dark brown wooden walls which have become stained after many years of smoke, you can expect a laidback traditional vibe. Enjoy a Dutch beer, local snacks and the sound of locals nattering.